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Chinese investments in Sri Lanka does not automatically translates into political influence – Menon



Former Indian Foreign Secretary, Shivshankar Menon has said that although China has invested heavily in countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, that does not automatically translate into political influence over a country’s foreign policy, popularity, or into soft power.

He said this responding to a question on the role of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plays in advancing China’s economic and soft power interests in South Asia during an interview with E-International Relations magazine.

“The BRI plays a very considerable role in advancing China’s interests. It plays to China’s strengths, which are economic, where it is not really matched by any other power in the subcontinent. Nor do outside powers prioritise countervailing China’s growing influence in the subcontinent. By committing over US$ 100 billion to BRI projects in the subcontinent, China has made herself indispensable to the infrastructure and economic plans of the leaders of several countries in the subcontinent,” he said.

However, at the same time the examples of Pakistan and Sri Lanka suggest that one should be cautious in drawing the conclusion that this automatically translates into political influence over a country’s foreign policy, popularity, or into soft power, he said.

“The attractiveness of the Chinese model or way of doing things is still rather limited, as is their power of attraction. This is still a work in progress and the Chinese leadership has often spoken of the need for China to gain soft power. So, its impact on India’s relations with these countries has not, to my mind, yet peaked. India has other affinities and common interests with our neighbours that China cannot match that I think we should concentrate on, rather than trying to match or imitate China,” he said.

Menon added that in his recent book ‘India and Asian Geopolitics: The Past, Present‘, he suggests that China will not behave as Western powers have. He said that the Chinese are very conscious of their own political and strategic tradition. China, particularly their present leadership, see the last 150 years as a historical aberration, a “century of humiliation,” Menon said.

“It is an aberration in their mind from an imagined past when China was the preeminent power in the world, the largest economy, a technological leader, and so on. Objective historians and non-Chinese might have their own, different view of the past, but it is this perspective and the quest for primacy it produces that seems to drive China’s international behaviour now,” he said.

China’s is a different strategic culture from that of the two previous global superpowers, Great Britain and the USA, he said. The former Indian Foreign Secretary said that China’s geography, history, resource endowment and dependencies on the world are different from those western powers.

“Hence my sense is that they will not behave as western powers have. Today, China is yet to be a global superpower, and it is difficult to predict whether she will succeed in this quest, which is facing resistance,” he said.

Menon also said that if the political relationship between China and India remains adversarial, cutting their economic dependencies on China would become a strategic necessity.

“To my mind, the two countries need to find a new paradigm for the relationship, or a new strategic framework, within which to manage or settle these issues and to take the relationship forward. In other words, the present situation calls for a fundamental reset of India-China relations,” he said.

He added that the biggest challenge for India in the last decade was the fact that the international environment became less supportive of the efforts to transform India, particularly after the global economic crisis that began in 2007-8.

“The rise of China and the growth of China-US strategic rivalry changed the situation, opening new opportunities for India-US relations but also creating challenges in our neighbourhood and on the India-China border where China has been changing the status quo. China has emerged unequivocally as our greatest strategic challenge but is also our greatest trading partner. We now face a complex set of relationships with all our neighbours and the major powers in a world that is adrift between orders,” Menon said.

Menon also said that the idea of hard linear boundaries is a relatively recent one in history, a feature of the Westphalian state that has acquired popular legitimacy with the rise of nationalism. However, South Asia has “old nations in new states” he said, pointing to the limitations of these boundaries.

“For most of history, borders, as opposed to linear boundaries, were zones of interaction and communities straddled these borders, while trading, traveling, and carrying on the normal business of life across these porous borders.

With the evolution of India and its neighbours into modern Westphalian states in the second half of the 21st century, and the partitioning of the subcontinent into post-colonial states, hard boundaries were imposed on ancient communities and nations which did not coincide with natural features or ethnic divisions or with their patterns of life.

This is why border zones in most of our countries have been unstable and increasingly securitised by the state, with unfortunate consequences for the inhabitants. The most extreme example of this phenomenon is Pakistan. But I do believe that there are political and economic solutions to these issues which are increasingly being practised by the other countries in the subcontinent, such as India and Bangladesh,” he said.

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UK funds projects here to prevent conflicts that threaten its interests



GoSL not among recipients

‘The CSSF is a cross government fund which supports and delivers activity to prevent instability and conflicts that threaten UK interests’

– UK Govt. website

The British High Commission yesterday (25) announced funding for projects worth £3.7m in 2022/23 here to thwart instability and conflicts that threaten British interests.

The announcement came after the conclusion of the visit of British Foreign Minister, Lord Tariq Ahmad, who is also Minister of State for South Asia, the UN, and the Commonwealth and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. The British official visited Jaffna and Trincomalee.

The British HC quoted Lord Ahmad as having said: “Building lasting and inclusive peace in Sri Lanka, based on reconciliation, justice and protecting human rights is key to a stable Sri Lanka, which can attract foreign investment and achieve its economic potential. We are pleased to announce continued support to Sri Lanka through the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) to address legacies of conflict, promote human rights and build cohesion across all

communities through programme funding of up to £3.7m in 2022/23.”

In response to The Island query whether the Sri Lankan government would be among the recipients of CSSF funding, BHC spokesperson said: “The funding is for programmes and projects implemented with support from BHC. All CSSF programming in Sri Lanka, will be delivered through a combination of civil society, private sector, and international development partners.”

According to the UK government website, the CSSF addressed complex national security challenges and promote international peace and stability. The National Security Council (NSC), which is chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by senior cabinet ministers, sets the CSSF’s strategic direction. It is guided by the priorities set out in the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

The BHC stated: “Lord Ahmad met senior members of the government, including President Gotabaya Rajapaska and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He discussed the importance of the UK Sri Lanka relationship and areas of mutual interest such as climate change and economic recovery from Covid-19. The Minister also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Sri Lanka on Healthcare Cooperation, which will improve knowledge sharing, best practice and expertise on healthcare, and develop an ethical and sustainable recruitment programme for the employment of Sri Lankan nurses and other healthcare professionals in the UK.

During his visit to the North and Eastern Provinces, the Minister met with local politicians and civil society. He discussed key Tamil and Muslim concerns, local governance and inclusive political engagement participation. He emphasised the UK’s support for open, tolerant and inclusive societies as well as freedom of religion or belief.

Throughout his visit to Sri Lanka, Lord Ahmad heard about the essential role civil society play in promoting respect for human rights and their views on how to make progress on reconciliation and accountability.”

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UGC Chief receives ‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ twice



Senior Prof. Amaratunga poses for a photograph with Amb Sugiyama after receiving the title

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has received the prestigious Japanese title ‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ twice.

The academic received the title the highest order conferred by the Government of Japan in the name of His Majesty the Emperor, on 14 Oct. 2021 from the then Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Akira Sugiyama at his official residence.

For the second time, the UGC Chief received the same title from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at Dharmavijayaloka Vihara in Rukmale in Pannipitiya at an event organised on 22 January, 2022.

The Presidential Media Division said that President Rajapaksa after receiving the award

from W.K.H. Wegapitiya, Chairman of University of Sri Jayewardenepura Alumni Association and Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki presented it to Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga.

Prof. Amaratunga poses for a photograph with President Rajapaksa

Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne delivered the keynote address on the occasion.

‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ is conferred by His Majesty on individuals who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture et al.

The Japanese embassy announced Senior Prof. Amaratunga and Manoj Fernando, Executive Vice President of the Sri Lanka Baseball/Softball Association (SLBSA) received the award.

The Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Most Ven. Ittapana Dhammalankara Thera has presented a memento to Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki.

W.K.H. Wegapitiya and Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, presented a memento to the President. The members of Maha Sangha, MP S.B. Dissanayake, Chancellors and Vice Chancellors of the Universities, and alumni of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura were also present.

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Cardinal insists on taking Easter killings to int’l community



Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has said they are left with no alternative but to turn to the international community to seek justice for victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, according to a report published by the Union of Catholic Asian News yesterday (25).

“We tried our best to solve the issue within the country and do justice to our people but have failed,” he said during an online forum with an international audience on Jan. 24.

“The legal system under the Attorney General does not consider the recommendations of the presidential commission on the Easter attacks, therefore we have no option but to go international.”

Cardinal Ranjith had hinted in April 2021 of his intentions to not only approach the United Nations but also countries with global influence.

“We can influence those countries as the Church is an international organisation. We have connections all over the world,”he said.

A group of suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamaath was suspected to be behind the bombings at three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in 2019. The attacks killed 269 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and left around 500 injured.

Catholics in Sri Lanka have not been happy with the investigations and led by Cardinal Ranjith have vowed to fight for justice until the truth behind the attacks is revealed.

Cardinal Ranjith said he was not satisfied with the investigations underway since the recovery of a live hand grenade at All Saints’ Church in Borella on Jan. 11.

Muni, a church worker, has been arrested as a suspect by police but the local Church alleged he was being falsely implicated.

Cardinal Ranjith said that such a thing will not be allowed to happen. “We trust the judiciary to take steps to rectify the wrongdoing in the court,” he said.

The arrest of a retired doctor in connection with the same case had further raised suspicion, with Father Cyril Gamini questioning the police investigations.

“We understand that this is an attempt at fabricating a story. The whole country knows that this is a drama and we can see it is a very weak script,” he said.

Father Gamini was earlier questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department over his claims regarding the Easter Sunday attacks during an online forum last November.

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